November 18, 2016
B.C’s bright bubbles
ON THE VINE
By JOHN SCHREINER
Move over Champagne, and make room for Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards of Peachland, the latest Okanagan winery to launch a sparkling wine.
The winery here formerly was Greata Ranch Vineyards, a sister winery to CedarCreek Estate Winery on the eastern side of Okanagan Lake. Senator Ross Fitzpatrick owned both. He sold CedarCreek in 2014 to Mission Hill’s Anthony von Mandl, but he kept Greata Ranch.
Gordon Fitzpatrick, his son, recognized that the 40-acre vineyard with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is a cool site ideal for sparkling wine. The first cuvée had already been laid down in 2012.
He closed Greata Ranch temporarily to tour about 30 producers in France and California, picking up ideas for turning the winery into a Champagne cellar. Meanwhile, cuvées of sparkling wine continued to be made for what is now Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards. The 380 cases of the 2012 bubble were released this fall at $32.50 a bottle. The renovated winery will open by Christmas. It has been designed primarily to offer 90-minute cellar tours and tastings of sparkling wine, with either Gordon Fitzpatrick or his winemaker hosting tastings described as “luxury at play.”
“Production of sparkling wine in B.C. is still limited,” Fitzpatrick says. “Last year, total sales of B.C. sparkling wine were only 28,000 cases. We think there is a really good niche for it.”
Bottle-fermented Okanagan bubble was pioneered in 1989 when Sumac Ridge Estate Winery released Steller’s Jay Brut (“brut” means dry). The wine, named for B.C.’s official bird, is made in the same “traditional method” as Champagne. Blue Mountain Vineyards and Summerhill Pyramid Winery in the Okanagan and Vigneti Zanatta on Vancouver Island all opened in 1992 and offer traditional method sparkling.
In the last decade, consumers have grasped that quality B.C. sparkling wine is not just for celebrations, but is exceptionally versatile, and pairs especially well with Asian cuisine. This is the niche that Fitzpatrick has entered.
John Schreiner is author of John Schreiner’s
Okanagan Wine Tour Guide and other books
on wine. email@example.com
Gold Label Brut ($24)
This is 60 per cent Pinot Noir, 30 per cent Chardonnay and four per cent Pinot Gris. Very lively in the glass, this fresh and creamy sparkler has flavours of citrus and apple and a hint of toasty lees on the nose. 91/100
Fitz Brut 2012 ($32.50)
This is a blend of 69 per cent Pinot Noir and 31 per cent Chardonnay. It was just disgorged in late summer after more than three years on the lees. The wine is crisp with brightly focussed fruit (apple, citrus) and a hint of toast from the lees. 92/100
Steller’s Jay Brut 2009 ($25)
The blend is Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wine begins with toasty and lightly citrus aromas, leading to fruity flavours with hints of nuts. The wine is creamy on the palate, with a lively mousse, but it finishes crisply. 91/100
Don’t just drink it, read about it. New this fall at Indigo is a $45 hardcover, But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine by David White (Skyhorse Publishing). The writer thinks that overly expensive Champagne from the luxury brands is not always worth the price. This book, in addition to updating the history of the beverage, puts the spotlight on so-called grower Champagnes—wines made by the growers, not by the big houses. Canadian liquor boards and wine agents import some of these little-known labels that offer good value.